Hi and welcome back! Today, we make a quick lil segue. Recently, Mark Galli wrote an editorial about Donald Trump–and it’s got his tribe completely divided and upset. Evangelicals think they can have a culture-warrior focus without also getting all the scandals and horrors that keep erupting out of their ranks and leadership. Today, I’ll show you Mark Galli’s wishful thinking about something that he can’t ever have–thanks in great part to evangelical leaders like himself.
Meet Mark Galli and Christianity Today.
Christianity Today (CT) is one of the biggest sites out there in evangelicalism. Once a popular magazine, it now functions more as a website. Online, it updates evangelicals on the stuff their Dear Leaders need them to know. Their top story, as I write this post, covers what they think are the most important “Biblical archaeology” stories of 2019.
(BTW: It still amazes me that anybody thinks that “Biblical archaeology” is anything but a pseudoscience joke that Christians don’t realize is told at their expense. But it does do the world one service: it’s a great indicator light for wackadoodlery.)
Mark Galli works as CT’s editor-in-chief. He’s been there for about seven years. Nobody but nobody would ever consider him anything but a culture warrior. Like most of his pals, he shifts position only when it becomes beyond-obvious that his side’s suffered a definitive loss. Also like most of his pals, he flips to another position entirely when the new one starts looking more advantageous.
A Short History of Mark Galli.
In 2015, he wrote an editorial in the wake of Obergefell. The full archive can be found here, just be warned that the Wayback Machine sometimes randomly hates Chrome. He began it with “we lost this one” and it went off like a rocket from there. His sulking “advice” is well worth pulling Internet Exploder out of the mothballs.
Of course, Obergefell fell into the Supremes’ robed laps precisely because fundagelicals decided to make this case a to-the-death, hyper-politicized battle. And the bigots lost that case. Love won.
Mark Galli is no brave, stalwart warrior for what is right and good. In fact, I can’t think of any time when he’s gone out of lockstep with his tribe regarding fundagelical-culture-war causes. He clung close to this one, as well, even in its striking loss. What really stands out in this editorial is that he advised his tribe,
But as it stands, these rights and liberties prevail here [in America] as nearly nowhere else in the world. Let’s make use of them for the common good—becoming peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) as best we can as we re-engage at all levels of politics.
Bravely Hedging His Bets.
In January 2016, we find Galli advising his tribe not to get too too too political, here. He was worried that Trump was now “trumping the Gospel.” Acknowledging Trump’s utter unsuitability for the presidency, he fretted that evangelicals might be getting too identified with an immoral leader. (He also gave major side-eye to Franklin Graham for endorsing him as a candidate.)
(As it was, he came in late here. The whole world outside his bubble already been knew what a horrible person Donald Trump truly was. In fact, in my day many evangelicals considered him a potential Antichrist.)
Then, just before the 2016 election, CT issued “advocacy pieces” for each candidate. A lot was at stake for these culture warriors!
Around that same time, CT published How to Pick a President. It contained essays by all the big names culture warriors know and love. And it drilled down hard on the evangelical party lines. The preview certainly sounds like its entire goal consisted of reassuring evangelicals that it was okay to vote for a monster as long as he gave them what they wanted: a Republic of Gilead for their very own, tied up with a neat blood-red bow. Someone even invokes Dietrich Bonhoeffer toward the end, since evangelicals all love fantasizing that they’re totally just like him–as they fight tooth and nail against human rights advances.
It’s a distasteful and manipulative-sounding book all the way around. Having read the preview of it, I do not buy for one moment Galli’s coy assertion that gosh, y’all, he just wanted to help his tribe make “informed decisions!” I guess at some point in those last 8-ish months he’d decided that Trump’s gross misconduct and rank unsuitability for office were okay.
On December 19, Galli wrote an editorial. He called it “Trump Should Be Removed From Office.”
In it, he indulges in the evangelical party line of whining about how meeeeeeeeeeean Democrats and liberals have been to Saint Donald. Then, we dig into Trump’s moral shortcomings, his crimes against the United States, and the indignities inflicted by him on his office and title. Galli even reminds evangelicals of what they said about Bill Clinton during his presidency. He begs them to apply those standards to Trump today. He pleads with them not to destroy the tribe’s credibility–its witness, to use the Christianese–much further by defending Trump to the skies.
Mark Galli announced his retirement just a couple of months ago. I doubt that’s a coincidence of timing. The only evangelicals who seem willing to speak against Trump are the ones with nothing much to lose. I suppose they learned their lesson when Russell Moore almost lost his job that way.
Even so, Galli writes like he knows damned well that the tribe will not react well to his criticism of Saint Donald, their
golden orange calf idol, their reincarnated King Cyrus in a combover and bad-fitting golf pants.
Galli’s editorial reminds me of a dog who cringes when its abusive master glares in its direction. It’s a weird look for someone who helped shape and form evangelicalism into its current debased state. He knows what’s coming because he helped create the sadistic beast that evangelicals have become.
Indeed, They Reacted Poorly.
No good ever comes from subjugating the church to the state or deifying the great leader, be it Caesar, James VI, the Führer, Mao, or a president who, according to U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia, has unjustly suffered even more than Jesus before his crucifixion. The church always loses its soul and the nation its bearings.
However, most evangelicals worship Donald Trump. And they leaped on Galli with both feet.
Condemnation and judgment flowed from Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr, who are both lapdogs for Trump. To their credit, I suppose, once bought they have so far stayed bought. Both leaders smeared Mark Galli and his motivations, then curiously accused him of acting “elitist” and allowing CT to serve “liberal elites.”
It’s an interesting accusation given that Mark Galli’s always been very secretive about exactly where he falls denominationally and doctrinally. About all we know of him is that he’s a die-hard culture warrior and forced-birther.
Ah, That Christian Love.
Another hyper-politicized evangelical, Ralph Reed of the hilariously-misnamed Faith and Freedom Coalition, slammed Galli into the ground in various ways on Faux Noise. The commentator, Laura Ingraham, described Galli as a “liberal editor.” I recommend checking out the video (link here) just to see the
Christian love blistering contempt on display as she and Reed discuss the story. Reed couldn’t even bring himself to say Mark Galli’s name.
A couple of days after Ingraham spun this story for her Dear Leaders, 200 evangelical leaders came together to slam Mark Galli personally. Even Donald Trump himself–never able to resist smearing his feces all over everything, nor to ignore any sign of dissent against his godhood–joined in the mob screeching for Galli’s blood.
If toxic Christians held back from cruelty, viciousness, and dishonesty, they’d have nothing at all left in their toolbox.
An Attempt Was Made.
On December 22, Timothy Dalrymple, the president and CEO of Christianity Today, wrote a follow-up editorial defending Mark Galli’s writing. He titled it “The Flag in the Whirlwind.”
Part of Dalrymple’s editorial caught my eye, though. He writes about how much he adores the advances that Trump has given evangelical culture warriors like himself. But those advances have come at a huge cost, one he does not think his tribe can long pay before buckling at the knees:
The problem is not that we as evangelicals are associated with the Trump administration’s judicial appointments or its advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty. We are happy to celebrate the positive things the administration has accomplished. The problem is that we as evangelicals are also associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more. In other words, the problem is the wholeheartedness of the embrace. It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.
This paragraph reveals that Timothy Dalrymple suffers under the illusion that he could ever have had the one without also getting the other.
Authoritarianism’s Package Deal.
Evangelicals’ cruelty and power-lust cannot be reined in except by law and eagle-eyed watchdogs. The stuff Dalrymple celebrates–the judicial appointments that’ll wreck our country for generations, the concessions to forced-birthers trying so doggedly to peel back women’s rights, the dismantling of the separation we need between church and state, the enshrinement of their religious demands into law, all spring forth from evangelicals’ base desires to hurt everyone possible and control absolutely everything. They can reword their desires however they like. Nobody’s ever been fooled by this sleight of hand except them.
Those same base desires produce all the bad stuff Dalrymple wrings his hands over: the immorality, greed, corruption, divisiveness, race-baiting, cruelty and hostility to outsiders, and all the rest.
You’d think that Christians like Mark Galli–who used to be a pastor–would know that advice in the Bible about good fruit not coming from bad trees, nor sweet water from bitter fountains. But they’re good at ignoring Bible verses like that when there’s power to be seized.
Donald Trump’s fruit has never changed. Nor did they. They just learned to put prettier words and redefinitions together to make their malevolence sound nicer.
In Search Of: A Nice Way to Wage Culture War.
To embrace the culture wars is to embrace cruelty and power-lust. There’s just not a way to embrace them without also embracing the mindset that leads to them. Nor is there a nice or loving way to strip rights from people or to take power over their lives.
And from there, there’s not a way to stop those in power in these tribally-minded groups from producing all the horrors that come with cruel and power-lusting leaders enjoying a near-total stranglehold over cruel and power-lusting followers.
This is all a package deal: cruel followers, cruel leaders, cruel tactics, cruel results.
Evangelicals just don’t get it. These cruel followers constantly bring cruel leaders to power to win cruel gains for the tribe, then act all totally shocked and dismayed when horrors and scandals erupt from every which direction. They really think there’s some magical way they can have a Donald Trump without suffering from Donald Trump’s shortcomings and criminality.
Having It Both Ways.
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of Christians who think they can have the culture wars without also having the scandals and horrors that come from the same wellspring that belches forth the desire to engage in culture wars in the first place.
Ed Stetzer indulges that exact same wishful thinking all the time. In fact, we covered one of his episodes here. So does one of his masters, Al Mohler, who recently admitted that complementarianism can easily be abused by the men given that kind of unilateral power over women.
These men all think that there’s a magical way to have an ultra-authoritarian, totalitarian worldview without also suffering the damage and harm that results from that exact worldview. They generally think Jesus Power is what makes the difference. In other words, if someone is Jesus-y enough and Jesus-es hard enough, then they won’t commit those wrongs.
But so far, Jesus has seemed quite unwilling to rein in his abusive sycophants. It’s just so weird.
An Attempt That Was Doomed to Fail.
In this editorial, Dalrymple sought to reconcile the two Trump camps in evangelicalism. He patiently explained his rationale. Then he extended a proverbial olive branch to Trump supporters.
However, Trump’s supporters solidly rejected those overtures.
Anyone could have predicted that outcome. Evangelical leaders (like Mark Galli and Timothy Dalrymple) carefully nurtured evangelicals to become a sheepfold full of extremists. They now consider even shows of civility to their enemies (as Ralph Reed and Laura Ingraham demonstrated so vividly) to be unacceptable.
Dalrymple recognizes now that it was a really bad idea to allow right-wing politics to overtake evangelicalism. But nobody stepped in decades ago to prevent it. None of them effectively did anything to stop evangelicals from adopting a worldview that distorted reality and granted them permission to be cruel and power-hungry. Nor did anybody stop evangelicals from morphing into their final form as theocracy-seeking missiles willing to stoop to any level at all to achieve power.
Once bought, evangelicals stay bought–sorta. Trump’s still buying them, so they’re still staying bought by him. It’s a match made in heaven between two parties who deserve each other, and Mark Galli only needs to look in the nearest mirror to see who helped make it all happen.
NEXT UP: LSP on Monday! On Tuesday, we helpfully answer “a simple question” from an evangelical pastor. Then we plunge into more Christian Lies to examine one that still makes me laugh. See you soon!
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Postscript: Wanna see some wackadoodle nutjobs literally dancing on Election Night 2016 in honor of their
golden orange calf idol?